Month: July 2014

Adventures In Golf

 

So I’m that guy, watching as the best golf shot he ever hits, gets pulled by the wind and sails towards a new house.

 

IMG_1178

So I’ve never claimed to be good at golf. The last time I played was over 10 years ago. I like golf, but I work, and I don’t have the time to dedicate to get really good at it. This week I had the chance to go golfing with a church youth group of 14-17 year old boys at a small golf course.

The first hole had gone well and after my first shot on the second hole, I was about 150 yards out from the green. I pulled out my seven iron, not because I knew how far a seven iron would take the ball, but because it seemed like a reasonable choice. I lined up with the ball and took a solid swing.

There were three 15 year old boys with me to make up my foursome. They stood around me in awe at the solid hit that went high into the air and straight towards the green. For an instant I was very proud of my shot. To my untrained eye it looked perfect. Unfortunately, I either hit it too hard or the wind propelled it more than I had planned and we watched at it sailed directly toward a house about 30 yards behind the green.

At this point there was no way to take back the shot. I could only watch and hope for the best. Because of the trees around the house, we could not see very well, but even at 150 yards we could clearly hear the ball hit the house with a thud. About 2 seconds later, the thud was followed by the sound of glass crashing down on to the deck behind the house.

I stood there stunned for a moment, and the boys with me did not move either. The sound clearly indicated to us what had happened, but I for one, was not immediately able to accept that I had just done that. Yes, I am “That Guy.”

I am somewhat embarrassed to say, that for a moment it seemed like there were a couple of options for how to handle the situation. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the only real option was to show the boys an example, by taking responsibility for what I had done, and making it right.

As I walked toward the house, I was angry. I was angry at myself for hitting the shot and not being able to control where it landed. I was angry that someone thought it was a good idea to put a house 100 feet directly behind a golf green. I knocked on the door and no one answered. I decided to take care of the situation after we had finished our game.

The rest of the game was not very fun. There were many houses along the course, and the boys and I were careful not to have the same thing happen again. When we finished the game I went into the clubhouse and let them know about the window I had hit and gave them my phone number. I also left a note on the door of the house that I had hit. I was relieved as I spoke with my insurance company, to find out that my homeowner’s policy has “Stupid Idiot” coverage (liability), and that it would take care of the expenses associated with replacing the window.

Here is the moral of the story. We all know that around the country, every day there are thousands of windows broken by golfers. I would venture to say that there is a small percentage of those golfers that admit to and take responsibility for the damage done. I am sure that I could have walked away from that hole and played the rest of the day and no one would have known that I had done the damage to the window. But I would have known, and the boys with me would have known. I hope that my example to the boys helps them to choose to be honest and accept responsibility even when they know the consequences will be difficult to deal with.

I’m pretty sure it will be another 10 years before I decide to play golf again.

Kendall is a boy name

So I’m that guy who woke up to his phone ringing at two in the morning, only to be told he was a girl.

Hello my name is

(Disclaimer, this is intended to be a humorous rant on names.)

Growing up, I didn’t know many people with my name, but I did know some, and they were all boys. As I got into my late teens, I realized that there were also girls named Kendall, but it was a rare occurrence for me to hear this and I was not overly concerned. Now I am afraid that the name has almost completely been taken over by the opposite sex. In 1906 the name was 100% male. In the early 80’s, when I was born, it was still mostly a boy name. But by 2012 it was 86% female. I found it interesting, that a Google search for “girl names that became boy names” yielded absolutely no results. This is a phenomena that affects males exclusively.

I am troubled by this, as I am sure many other men are. Just think about all the Lynns, Quinns, Shirleys, Ashleys, Shannons, Stacys, Taylors, and Whitneys to name a few. They are stranded in a world where their names were once proud and masculine, only to hear kids snickering when they perceive that they have girl names.

A few years ago I was woken up at 2 a.m. by my phone ringing. I tried to ignore the call, but the caller was persistent. I answered the phone and a woman asked, “Is Kendall there?” I said, “This is Kendall.” She says, “No this isn’t; Kendall is a girl name.”

Still partially awake, I was hurt and offended and when she tried to end the call I said, “You can’t just wake me up and call me a girl without an explanation of why.”

She proceeded to tell me that she had found a note in her husband’s pants pocket with my name and number. Assuming I was a girl and fearing the worst, she decided to call the number at 2 in the morning to catch the person off guard and find out if there was something going on. It turns out her husband is a contractor I had spoken with earlier that day about a job I needed done.

This woman’s trust issues, or her husband’s lack of trustworthiness, vividly illustrate the confusion that is being created in the world because of the name migration. Some women think it is cute to name a baby girl with a name that is not commonly used for girls, and I have to agree that sometimes it is cute. But at what cost for all the boys that carry that name? Is it fair to take a name and change it to fit your purposes? Just think of all the Leslies out there that have no choice but to be Les. (Pun intended.)

I guess my hope is that before you choose that name that is not traditionally used for a particular gender, you think of the effects on society. What name will be next? Maybe it’s David, Michael, or even George that will be the next to cross the line. No name is off limits apparently. And although this is written mostly tongue in cheek, I have been affected by the blatant takeovers of male baby names.

What’s your opinion? Agree or disagree, please comment and put in your two cents on this issue.

 

Adoption “What If’s”

So, what if I’m that guy who analyzes things too much?

what if

Adoption was not our “plan A” when it came to growing our family. Don’t get me wrong, I had the idealistic thoughts that many have, thinking that someday it would be nice to adopt. I viewed it as something that truly selfless people do to help humanity, but it was not necessarily for me.

Infertility changed all of that for me. It took some time to wrap my mind around the situation, but eventually it became a present reality. I realized that adopting would fill a need in ourselves and our family as well as give a child a good home. I didn’t come to this realization easily, here are some of the “what if’s” that crossed my mind, and some of the conclusions I’ve come to through my experiences.

-What if it is too expensive? This is a very valid question. Adoption can be very expensive and to some it seems impossible. We were blessed with the resources to make the adoptions happen and I have never regretted it. There is nothing that money could have bought that would bring more joy and happiness to me and my family.

-What if I’m not able to bond with the child? This question was one of the first I had. I had no idea if I would bond with an adopted child the same way as I had with our biological daughter. In my situation this is the easiest one to answer, the bonding happened immediately. From the first moment I saw each one of our adopted children, I was totally and completely in love. There was no hesitation or second thought.

-What if I feel like a babysitter? This question went back to the previous question of bonding. Like I stated earlier, from the beginning there was not question of the bond that immediately formed between us. Whenever my wife goes out with her friends, leaving me alone with the kids, she likes to tell me that it’s not “baby sitting” when they’re your own kids.

-What if the birth parents want the baby back?  We have all heard the horror stories of the birth parents who come back after two years, and after a long court battle regain custody of their child. While this does happen, it’s very rare. In my experience, the birth parent’s greatest motivator is the happiness of the child. Though difficult, they put their own needs aside for the child to have an intact home, and a better future than they can provide.

-What if the child grows up wishing they were with their birth parents? In visiting with adults that were adopted, I have found that the child does mourn the loss of his or her birth parents, but they all have expressed to me the gratitude they have for the birth parents that placed them for adoption as well as for their adoptive parents. A few have described difficulty in their teen years, but adolescence can be a very difficult time for anyone. We all try to identify who we are and who we want to be. Adoption is something that kids can blame their troubles on, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the root of the issue. While I am sure there are exceptions, adult adoptees that I have met are very well adjusted, happy people.

-What if I’m not a good enough Dad? This was the hardest question for me, and continues to be difficult. A birth mother places a lot of trust and hope in an adoptive couple. She wants her child to have a life that she can’t provide, and it rests on the shoulders of the adoptive parents to fulfill her dreams for that child. When I lose my temper or catch myself not being the best I can be, I feel like I’m letting that her down. We all have weaknesses and struggle at times, but I always try to remember the sacrifice of their birth mother and try harder to be the father she wanted for her children.

Don’t let the “what if’s” stop you if you are thinking about adoption. If nothing else, through my experiences I’ve realized that things have a way of working out. And even though they may not turn out the way we first planned or hoped, I can look back and say I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have had experiences with adoption that you would like to share, please leave me a comment.

Maybe It’s a Tumor

So I’m that guy, trying to process being told, “I think you have a tumor.”

 

MRI Head Scan side view

 

At my biggest, I weighed in at about 250 pounds. I am about 6 feet 2 inches tall and not completely out of shape. I knew I was overweight, but I thought I was still somewhat healthy. Since my teen years I had struggled with my weight, it was a slow and steady process, but it gradually crept up on me. At the age of 28, I had been actively trying to lose weight for about 2 years with no success. I decided to go to the doctor and talk about what I could do to lose the weight.

The first step was to do some blood tests. Two days later, the results were in. I went to the doctor’s office to go over the results. First of all, my blood sugar levels were elevated. They had done an insulin test and found that I was severely insulin resistant and on my way to having type 2 diabetes. My cholesterol was elevated and nearly at the point I would need to be medicated for it. My testosterone levels were extremely low, and there was a funny little hormone called prolactin that I had never heard of, but it was highly elevated as well.

After talking about the prolactin levels, the doctor said the words that no one wants to hear, “I think you may have a tumor.” I was stunned and confused as he started to explain that he thought I may have a pituitary tumor that was basically at the root of all the other problems I was having. The prolactin levels were inhibiting my testosterone production, therefore causing my body to be completely out of balance. I had many of the symptoms and almost all of the physical traits associated with the tumor and I could trace these things back to my early adolescence. A few of the traits were lack of facial hair and abnormal distribution of body fat.

The MRI confirmed the existence of a prolactinoma (pituitary tumor). It was small and thankfully benign, but it was in fact a complicating factor of some of my most significant health issues. I believe that my lifestyle choices were definitely the major factor in my health problems, but the tumor made it an uphill climb to reverse the effects of the choices I was making.

It was a substantial turning point in my life. I was medicated to control the tumor and its effects on my metabolism. I had a renewed motivation to change the habits that had brought about the health issues I was facing. I increased the frequency and intensity of my workouts and most importantly I changed my eating habits.

Six years later, the tumor is still there, but it is under control with medication. I’ve discovered a lot about myself in the process of learning to manage it and take back control of my body and my health. I’m now about 50 pounds lighter than the day I went into the doctor the first time. I’ve made new habits around exercise and eating that have made it possible to maintain my weight loss and reverse the health problems I faced before. I’ve run two marathons in the last two years and I maintain an active lifestyle. My blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and testosterone are all at normal levels currently. I’ve learned to enjoy “healthy foods.” I feel healthy and empowered to continue forward in my new lifestyle.

All in all, I’m not completely sure how much effect the tumor had on my health. Maybe it was just the shock of finding it that spurred me to change my bad habits and learn to enjoy things that are good for me. Either way, I now see it as a positive turning point that has motivated me to improve on a continual basis.

The Economics of Adoption: Using an Attorney vs. Private Adoption Agency

So I’m that guy that decided to go forward with a private adoption thinking it would be cheaper and easier than working with an adoption agency.

Adoption agreement

When we received the information that the birth mother of our first adopted son was once again pregnant, we had some mixed feelings. With our first son, we went through a private adoption agency and the cost was difficult for us to manage. We have no regrets at spending the $30,000 fee that the agency charged the first adoption, but we just didn’t feel that we would be able to afford another costly adoption so soon afterward. At the same moment, we wanted the baby and could not imagine telling our son that we couldn’t afford to bring his brother into our home when he was older. It seemed silly on one hand to quibble over the cost of adopting a half sibling, but on the other hand, it would put a serious financial burden on our family.

Upon further research, we were told by the adoption agency that their fees had gone up since our last adoption. The current fee would be $33,000 plus any medical expenses incurred during the birth. The medical costs could be anywhere between $7,000 and up to $10,000 if a c-section was necessary, and any costs associated with complications would be ours as well. That brought the cost to a range between $40,000 and $43,000.

Here is some un-professional tax advice for people looking to adopt. There are adoption tax credits available to adoptive families. In our situation there was up to $12,000 in non-refundable tax credits. Non-refundable means that you don’t get it back unless you owe taxes. If you owe taxes, the tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your tax bill. It will usually make your refund larger, but you won’t necessarily get the money back in the first year. Consult your CPA for further information on this.

Even with the adoption tax credit, the price was so high that we felt we couldn’t move forward with the adoption because of the cost. The only other option we had was to work out a private adoption and work with birth mother directly. Believing this would cost less, while knowing it would be difficult to manage the situation, we chose to move forward without the adoption agency.

We contacted the birth mother and told her our situation would not allow us to go through the agency, but that we would like to handle it privately. She was hesitant at first, but she decided that she would cooperate in order to keep the kids together. My wife and I started making phone calls and doing research into the costs that we would have in doing an adoption privately. We interviewed lawyers and spoke with social workers and hospitals to pin down all the costs that we would be responsible for.

Our budget included an estimate of travel and living expenses to move the birth mother closer to us during the last two months of the pregnancy as that is what she had asked us to do. All together we estimated the cost of a private adoption at between $15,000 and $18,000. That was still a stretch for our finances, but we decided we would make it work one way or another.

The adoption turned out to be very difficult. The day to day events could fill a book and I don’t want to get into the difficult details of the situation. To put it concisely, when you are doing a private adoption, you take the roles of social worker, adoptive family, and financial provider on yourself at the same time. It puts you in a very tenuous position, and opens you up for manipulation. If you know going into the situation that you will be manipulated, be sure and be open and honest with your spouse on how much you are willing to be manipulated. We found it to be very difficult to refuse extravagant demands when she threatened to leave and not place with us. We would not only be devastated at losing the baby, but any money we had already spent in the adoption would be unrecoverable as well. In some states there are legal limitations on what can be provided to a birth mother who intends to place a baby, but unfortunately the laws in our state are very liberal in this area and have virtually no limitations.

With our willingness to bend, we were able to successfully complete the adoption. There were several points along the way that we were afraid we were going to lose the opportunity to adopt the baby and looking back, it is nothing short of miraculous that it all worked out the way it did. We realized in the end, the value of the adoption agency probably would have been worth the added expense. We did save money on the cost of the adoption, but it took an emotional toll on us and our family and required a lot of work that we had not planned on.

By the end of the adoption, our lawyer now had a new, “Most expensive adoption.” The fees added up as they helped us navigate the situations that we dealt with daily. Be aware that your lawyer is not your friend. When you call them up to chat about a situation, they are billing you.
Between the added legal expenses and the added living expenses for the birth mother, our do it yourself adoption ended up costing just a little over $30,000. Yes, we saved some money, but it was a far cry from the budget we had started with. In the end, we had an amazing outcome. We walked out of the hospital with a healthy baby boy that has been a source of joy in our family ever since. While we would change some aspects of it if we could, the outcome was well worth the struggle we went through to get him into our home.

How I met their Mother

So I’m that guy, who while looking into his wife’s eyes as they were married, thought that he loved her more than anything in this world and couldn’t possibly love her more, but realizes now that he can and does love her more every day.

Couple holding hand at sun rise

 

When I first met my wife, Katy, she was only 16. I thought she was cute, but as she was a little more than 4 years younger than me, I didn’t consider dating her. She worked for my mom’s business at the time, and I also ended up working in the business. We didn’t work together but we were around each other sometimes through the day, so we were able to get to know each other a little.

When Katy was 17 I was pressured in to taking one of her friends to her Senior Prom. I wasn’t very excited about the situation, but I said I would do it if Katy came along, so I arranged a double date where she went with a friend of mine. We had a really fun time together, and on that date, I saw her sense of humor and personality and I really liked her. After that night, I was talking to my friend, who had also had a good time, and he said he had also liked her. “Too bad she’s so young,” he said.

It was another year before we started dating, but through that year we had a few opportunities to hang out and get to know each other a little better. Finally, one day at work we were talking about our lack of weekend plans. I had said that I wasn’t doing anything, and she said the same. So I asked if she would like to go out with me to see the Star Wars movie that had just come out in the theaters. She said yes, and the rest is history.

That was around the last week in May of 2002. By the middle of June we were going out almost every weekend. We had a really good time together and enjoyed talking and spending time with each other. We talked about anything and everything. The realization that she was the one I should marry came little by little, but it wasn’t long before I knew I would be very happy sharing my life with her. We really became close through those few months, and in late August our relationship had arrived at the point where we started talking about marriage.

I remember the first conversation we had about marriage. It was exciting and new to realize that we were both thinking about this. We were driving in my truck at the time, and she said, “We haven’t even held hands yet.” I was a very shy person and struggled to get up the courage to make the “moves,” but when she said that, I reached over and held her hand. From that point on we were inseparable. We spent all of our free time together and shortly thereafter I bought a ring.

We went for a drive and parked to talk. I had the ring in my pocket and I was so excited at the thought of putting it on her finger. We were talking and I held her hand and said, “When we are old and grey, I want to look at your hand and see this ring on your finger,” and I pulled out the ring and showed it to her and I asked, “Will you marry me?”

She said yes and I put the ring on her finger. Then she said, “Don’t you think you should kiss me?” Looking back on those moments, I can’t help but think I could have done it all a lot better. I could have made the proposal more elaborate or more romantic. We could have held hands more and kissed while we were dating. But all in all I don’t have any regrets. From that courtship we have developed a relationship that is built on a true friendship and not solely a physical bond.

That stage in our lives culminated in the most important day in my life, November 30, 2002, when I held her hand and we were married. It was at that time that our family was united and began. I can truly say that I married my best friend. I clearly remember thinking on that day that I could not possibly love any person more than I loved her. Looking back at our lives, we have gone through a lot together. There have been amazing times, hard times, tragedies and miracles. I realize now that I do love her more with every passing day. Through it all, the friendship that we started with has only strengthened. Our relationship has become integral to our lives. I realize that with each passing day, I do love her more and more.